Monday, December 4, 2006

A Word of Encouragement from Sasse as We Begin a New "Year"

For almost two years now I have been part of a study group that is working its way through the various writings of Hermann Sasse. I have long enjoyed his works, and credit him with saving me theologically at a critical point early in my ministry. Currently we are in the book The Lonely Way: Selected Essays and Letters, Vol. I , 1927-1939 (CPH, 2001). In his essay from 1938 "The Church at the Turn of the Year," it seems that Sasse has some particularly comforting and encouraging words as we begin a new church year and anticipate a new secular year as well:

"The church has a relationship to time quite different from that of the world. The world hastens toward its end. It has some inkling of this but yet will not admit it. The world sees death ahead as an inescapable fate and seeks to overcome it, though it well knows that it is the world that shall be overcome. The anguish of death and longing for 'deeper, deeper eternity' speak alike from the great works of man, from the creations of his spirit, his will. In these he attempts to 'immortalize ' himself, to conquer eternity. But finally eternity is not his. Eternity belong to the triune God, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It belongs to the one who is 'the one blessed and only powerful, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells there in light where no one can come, which no man has seen nor can see" [1 Tim 6:15-16].

The world does not recognize him. But the church believes in him. She sings her Gloria to him, "to the triune God, as he was in the beginning, is now, and shall be now and evermore.' As in the days of the apostles she prays to the one who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who was and is and is to come, the Almighty: 'Maranatha!' 'Amen, yes, come, Lord Jesus!' [Rev. 22:20]. The world trembles before the great day of the Lord. It lets its philosophers prove that there could be no last day, no judgment. But the church waits expectantly for the blessed last day. 'Zion hears the watchman singing, And in her heart new joy is springing. She wakes, she rises from her gloom.' She hears the jeering question of the world: 'where is his promised advent? For after the fathers fell asleep, everything has remained as it has been form the beginning of creation' [2 Pet 3:4]. The world cannot wait. It is in a hurry because its time is nearing its end. it must always immediately have it all, otherwise it is too late. The church can wait. She has learned to do so in the course of nineteen centuries. She has a different relationship to time. For she belongs to one for whom a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day [2 Pet 3:8]. She is not anxious in the face of unstoppable , inescapable, unrepeatable time. She knows she is the possession of him who is the Lord of time, because he is the Lord of eternity. Therefore when the church crosses the threshold of a new year, she can never do so with the feeling of worldly anxiety which we all now as natural men, the anxiety in the face of an unknown future. She rather enters the new year in firm faith: 'My time in in thy hands.' In this faith the church of God on earth heads into the new year, the year of our Lord 1938." (pp. 431-432)

And for us in our time, in this same faith, we too head into the year of our Lord - 2007.

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